#1 Lack of Time
A lack of time often seems to be the number #1 excuse for doctors mismanaging their finances. Many non-physician spouses may have just as demanding, or more demanding schedules than their doctor partners, but many do not. While my wife is a dentist and was working ridiculous hours during her time in school I was working full-time and studying for my CFA. I still had more time than she did and could stream line the process since that is all I did, was create financial plans at work. I could boil down the information I had learned from my undergrad and masters to small soundbites to keep her up to speed on the decisions we needed to make and financial moves we needed to implement.
#2 “Doctor Culture of Keeping up with the Joneses”
Another pitfall cited by most doctors about finances is the desire to keep up with the joneses in terms of lifestyle. The non-physician spouse is farther removed from this detrimental “doctor culture” and may be able to steer the couple’s financial decisions away from new cars, oversized homes, and other expensive purchases. Many people are able to avoid these costly mistakes, but it might be easier to have the spouse that doesn’t see all the nice cars in the hospital or dental parking lot driving the financial decisions.
#3 “Career Decisions”
Doctor career decisions are not all about money, but if the non-doctor spouse is informed regarding the family finances, they can better contribute to discussions surrounding career decisions. For example, when my wife was debating between corporate dentistry, private practice or starting her own practice, I was able to throw together a spreadsheet to show what the financial implications of each path and what that means for different financial issues for our family.
Making Financial Decisions Together
Ideally, both partners in a marriage will understand finance 101, even if one is doing more of the implementing. The neat thing, after listening to me summarize enough financial topics and listing the pros and cons of each choice, my wife now has a basic understanding of the major pitfalls of most financial topics.
I think it is also important for the non-doctor spouse to get to know relevant medical conversations. I know that being along for the ride with my wife through dental school allowed me to have a great understanding on general dentistry techniques and common issues.